Cannes begone, The sixty-third Sydney Film Festival has officially launched its full program

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant, besides festival director Nashen Moodley today announced the full program for the Sydney International Film Festival, declaring that the festival would present a staggering 244 films from 60 countries, including 25 World Premieres. This includes 139 Australian premieres (including 13 Australian premiere short films) and three international premieres.

With a long history as Australia’s most significant film festival, and producing significant etches in our national cinema history, such as David Stratton’s decade and a half of curating to Quentin Tarantino’s live Q & A, the festival reaches it’s 63rd hallmark in full stride, as director Nashen Moody opened by saying that the, “Sydney Film Festival has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with attendances increasing by over 59% to 176,000, since 2011.”

Snatching the opening night and potentially the most prestigious time slot at this years festival is Goldstone, the stylish outback noir from acclaimed Indigenous writer-director Ivan Sen and starring Aaron Pedersen, Jacki Weaver, David Wenham, and David Gulpilil. The film (also featured in our top ten Australian films of 2016) will see Pedersen pick up where we left off in Mystery Road, returning to his role as indigenous detective Jay Swan.

Goldstone

Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, will be the curtains to the festival, his film a loose adaption of Jane Austens ‘Lady Susan’ will feature Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Stephen Fry as well as Aussie actor Xavier Samuel.

At the crux of the Sydney Film Festival will be this years $60,000 prize pool, to be gifted to the most innovative film from a selection of 12 new works.

Competing this year will be Ivan Sen’s Goldstone, Boo Junfeng’s Apprentice, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, Brady Corbet’s The Childhood of a Leader, Oliver Hermanus’s The Endless River, Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, Martin Zandvliet’s Land of Mine, Ivo M. Ferreira’s Letters From War, Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s Notes on Blindness, Anurag Kashyap’s Psycho Raman and Paddy Breathnach’s Viva. The winner of to be announced at the Festival’s Closing Night Gala on Sunday 19 June.

Joining Goldstone will be another four Aussie premiers, and festivalgoers will have first opportunity to catch Abe Forsythe’s dark comedy Down Under, Craig Boreham’s queer tour de force Teenage Kicks, theatre veteran Stephen Sewell’s political thriller Embedded; as well as Craig Anderson’s thriller Red Christmas.

The homegrown directors haven’t confined themselves this year though, as the festival announced that six documentaries would compete for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award.  Baxter and Me, Constance on the Edge, Destination Arnold, Embrace, On Richard’s Side and The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe will commit to screen review before the International Documentary program present Suzy & the Simple Man and Winter at Westbeth and a winner will be determined.

New to the Festival will be the Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship, which will on Tuesday the 14th of June, announce four fellows from 21 shortlisted Australian filmmakers by a Jury chaired by actress July Davis.  Any fellow announced will be given the opportunity to produce their respective films, which will then premiere at the 64th Sydney Film Festival in 2017.

Damian Walshe-Howling’s short film MESSiAH will be among 22 short films screened throughout the Festival along with the ten finalists in the Dendy Awards, Australia’s longest running short film competition, which will screen over two sessions on 18 and 19 June.

The film festival has continued it’s rampant growth, spreading across Sydney to the State Theatre, Event Cinemas George Street, Dendy Opera Quays, Dendy Newtown, Skyline Drive-In Blacktown, Art Gallery of NSW, Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Cremorne, Casula Powerhouse with a relocated outdoor screen at Pitt Street Mall and a collection of suburb cinemas close by.

The Sydney Film Festival has extended their repertoire this year, and will be offering a range of films to suit everyone from the lounge-chair critics to the four-kid families. The categories this year range from international cinema to live events, and the magnanimous David Stratton will return to his beloved festival with a curating of Scorsese’s best.

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Alongside this emphasis on quality international film, the Sydney Film Festival will this year feature some of the most promising films out of Cannes. Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius; Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World; and Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta; all in the running for the Cannes best picture award will be joined by Apprentice; and Captain Fantastic to surplus this years festival event.

French director Jean-François Richet’s Cannes opus Blood Father, starring Mel Gibson will also see Gibson join the Sydney Film Festival conversation for a FREE Vivid Ideas talk at the Festival Hub while Spielberg’s fantasy adventure The BFG will also enjoy a Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and Sydney Film Festival screening.

A new initiative providing a platform for women narratives is the Sydney FF European Cinema: 10 Women Filmmakers to Watch. The event will showcase 10 new films by 10 of Europe’s most promising female storytellers, including Mirjana Karanović, Swedish visual artist and documentary filmmaker Sara Jordenö, Danish filmmaker Frederikke Aspöck whose films have screened at Cannes, one of Poland’s most talented filmmakers Agnieszka Smoczynska, and actress and director Nicolette Krebitz.

Another new initiative for the festival is teenager appropriate screenings as just over half of the feature films (93) will be rated 15+. Thanks to changes to the Australian classification system, the Festival can now assess films using the criteria set out in the National Classification Code, instead of applying the 18+ mandatory default classification required in previous years.

There will also be a selection of family suitable films, and joining premiere blockbuster adventure comedy Ice Age: Collision Course and the Cannes-selected The BFG will be Coconut Hero, the new Australian feature. Malcolm Turner will too return for the Animation Showcase and present the best animated gems from around the globe.

Meanwhile, Richard Kuipers will curate a seven-film horror show, playing Red Christmas, The Devil’s Candy and High-Rise along a few more spooky entries.

Teaming with Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department, the festival will provide a platform for Indigenous stories Goldstone and Black Chook and AFTRS Black Talk will reach the festival with AFTRS Black Talk – A Double Bill: Indigeneity And Australian Screen. The first showcases leading creative voices: producers David Jowsey, Kylie du Fresne and Ned Lander; the second features leading Indigenous auteurs and filmmakers Ivan Sen, Sterlin Harjo and Dylan River.

There’s a lot more too, the festival will put on events for Korean and Irish cinema, restoration events for archaic films and new events for foodies, innovators and aspiring filmmakers. For the full lineup and announcement of information, the details can be found at http://www.sff.org.au/ and tickets will be on sale as of today!

The festival will run from the 8th – 19th of July.